The People’s Signature Guitar: The Story of Chapman Guitars

Guitar players are an opinionated, vocal lot.  We here at love to discuss gear, tone, tunes and what makes music tick.  If a guitar player has a question about anything, from the best distortion pedal on the market to the reason the powers tubes in the back of his amp are glowing bright red to how to adjust a truss rod, there’s an entire world of guitar players ready to help via the Internet.

So it’s no surprise that in this age of instant, worldwide communication a guitar company would emerge that harnesses the collaborative power of the Internet and put players in this driver’s seat. That company is Chapman Guitars

maxresdefaultThe UK’s Rob Chapman will certainly be familiar to followers.  His sophisticated wit, stunning technique, excellent product demos and fantastic lessons have made the Monkey Lord a YouTube sensation among guitar players throughout the world.

When Chapman was offered the opportunity to design his own signature guitar line, he took a unique design approach.  Instead of simply throwing together a bunch of features that were only important to him or convening a boardroom full of corporate suits trying to guess what guitar players might throw down their hard-earned cash for and turn a profit for the company, Chapman took his pitch to the people.

Using his reach within the Internet universe, he gathered suggestions from thousands of guitar players to design a guitar that reflected what players actually wanted in an instrument.  In essence, he invited his subscribers to design their own signature guitar.  Through these efforts, Chapman’s eponymous line of guitars was born.

In a Youtube video published in 2010, Chapman noted that the collaborative design approach turned out to be “a brilliant medium for bringing forth awesome concepts and ideas.”

Chapman guitars are an excellent combination of cutting-edge and classic, with unique appointments like reverse, Tele-style headstocks, accented

ML1-Amber-Sunburst-6cutaways, and a classy, 12th fret “infinity” inlay that is well on the way to becoming the line’s visual calling card.  Chapman also designed the guitars to be easily modded to the preferences of the player if desired, recognizing that guitar players love exploring new tones  through aftermarket pickups and modified wiring and switching features.  The Principal Primate did the guitar playing world right.

Of course, Chapman also knows that players want value in an instrument.  As The Tone King has shown us in numerous product reviews, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to get a great-sounding, highly playable, well-built axe, and Chapman Guitars easily delivers on this front.  The overall quality of Chapman Guitars is so good that guitar players would be easily enticed to pay much more than they sell for and there’s little doubt the folks in the boardrooms of some of the old line builders have taken notice.

Which brings us to another great thing about Chapman Guitars: it’s leadership.  Rob Chapman and “Captain” Lee Anderton, the President of Anderton’s Music, the exclusive distributor for Chapman Guitars in the UK, are intimately involved with many parts of the business that are probably delegated two or three degrees down from the leadership of other guitar companies.  Here is a video of the Monkey Lord and the Captain doing what may be one of the most massive unboxings* ever posted to the Internet.  Not only are they both out on the loading dock, inspecting the new arrivals, but they are intimately familiar with what’s in the shipment before they even open the boxes.  It’s clear that they are fully invested in the direction of their company and what is hitting the market.  What other guitar company head honchos are doing things like this?

Chapman Guitars certainly stands out as an innovator in today’s guitar marketplace, but they’re not actually the first to reach out to the players to build a product.  Back in the 1950s, a small, relatively new guitar manufacturer was working on a new design.  They knew the input of working players would help them get it right, so they enlisted a couple of working musicians in the Fullerton, Calif., area to assist.  A couple of these players, guys by the name of Rex Gallion and Bill Carson, suggested some design features such as body contours for better playing comfort as well as helping refine the vibrato and pickup designs the builder was experimenting with.

Input from the players proved valuable and the guitar ended up doing pretty well. In fact, it’s still out on the market and has made it into the hands of a couple of noteworthy guitar players.  The guitar is called the Stratocaster and that builder was Leo Fender.

So that’s pretty good evidence that listening to guitar players works.  Classic instruments are rarely, if ever, built by guys wielding pie charts and market reports over dinner at steakhouses adorned with deep-stained cherry wood and fine Corinthian leather.

“I wanted my signature guitar to be more than just my signature [guitar].  I wanted it to be the guitar for the people,” said Chapman in 2010.  And the people have spoken.  Chapman has delivered a quality guitar at a price well within reach of the masses.  All hail the Monkey Lord (and a smart salute to the Captain)!


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